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Women - an insight into their evolving role in civilization- By: ‌Aziz Amin Ahmadzai
Friday, 10.05.2012, 09:22pm (GMT+1)

Prior to the era of Islamic civilization, women across the world, from Greece and Rome to India and China, were considered as no better than children or even slaves, with no rights whatsoever. Before the arrival of Islam women were regarded as piece of trash and neither respect nor their due rights were given. The period of ignorance was on peak, thus the people were burying their girls alive.


One major purpose of this article is to provide a fair evaluation of what Islam contributed (or failed to contribute) toward the restoration of woman's dignity and rights. In order to achieve this objective, it may be useful to review briefly how women were treated in general in previous civilizations and religions, especially those which preceded Islam (Pre-610 C.E.). Part of the information provided here, however, describes the status of woman as late as the nineteenth century, more than twelve centuries after Islam.


According to an article “WOMEN IN THE ANCIENT WORLD” by JamesC. Thompson[i], He states the following:

In India, subjection was a cardinal principle. Day and night must women be held by their protectors in a state of dependence says Manu. The rule of inheritance was agnatic, that is descent traced through males to the exclusion of females.  In Hindu scriptures, the description of a good wife is as follows: "a woman, whose mind, speech and body are kept in subjection, acquires high renown in this world, and, in the next, the same abode with her husband."

In Athens, women were not better off than either the Indian or the Roman women. Athenian women were always minors, subject to some male - to their father, to their brother, or to some of their male kin.

Her consent in marriage was not generally thought to be necessary and "she was obliged to submit to the wishes of her parents, and receive from them her husband and her lord, even though he were stranger to her."

A Roman wife was described by an historian as: "a babe, a minor, a ward, a person incapable of doing or acting anything according to her own individual taste, a person continually under the tutelage and guardianship of her husband."

In the Encyclopedia Britannica, we find a summary of the legal status of women in the Roman civilization:

“In Roman Law a woman was even in historic times completely dependent. If married she and her property passed into the power of her husband... the wife was the purchased property of her husband, and like a slave acquired only for his benefit. A woman could not exercise any civil or public office could not be a witness, surety, tutor, or curator; she could not adopt or be adopted, or make will or contract. Among the Scandinavian races women were: under perpetual tutelage, whether married or unmarried. As late as the Code of Christian V, at the end of the 17th Century, it was enacted that if a woman married without the consent of her tutor he might have, if he wished, administration and usufruct of her goods during her life.

According to the English Common Law:

All real property which a wife held at the time of a marriage became a possession of her husband. He was entitled to the rent from the land and to any profit which might be made from operating the estate during the joint life of the spouses. As time passed, the English courts devised means to forbid a husband's transferring real property without the consent of his wife, but he still retained the right to manage it and to receive the money which it produced. As to a wife's personal property, the husband's power was complete. He had the right to spend it as he saw fit”.

Only by the late nineteenth Century did the situation start to improve. "By a series of acts starting with the Married women's Property Act in 1870, amended in 1882 and 1887, married women achieved the right to own property and to enter contracts on a par with spinsters, widows, and divorcees." As late as the Nineteenth Century an authority in ancient law, Sir Henry Maine, wrote: "No society which preserves any tincture of Christian institutions is likely to restore to married women the personal liberty conferred on them by the Middle Roman Law."

In short, let no one suppose, either, that the Christian heritage is free of such slighting judgments. It would be hard to find anywhere a collection of more degrading references to the female sex than the early Church Fathers provide. The churches not only affirm the inferior status of woman, it deprived her of legal rights she had previously enjoyed. As to not prolong this article more I better start the status of Women since the arrival of Islam. In the midst of the darkness that engulfed the world, the divine revelation echoed in the wide desert of Arabia with a fresh, noble, and universal message to humanity:

"O Mankind, keep your duty to your Lord who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate (of same kind) and from them twain has spread a multitude of men and women...” [Noble Quran 4:1]. [ii]

A scholar who pondered about this verse states: "It is believed that there is no text, old or new, that deals with the humanity of the woman from all aspects with such amazing brevity, eloquence, depth, and originality as this divine decree."


Stressing this noble and natural conception, the Quran states:

 "He (God) it is who did create you from a single soul and therefore did create his mate, that he might dwell with her (in love)..." [Noble Quran 7:189]


The Quran provides clear-cut evidence that woman is completely equated with man in the sight of God in terms of her rights and responsibilities. The Quran states:


"...So their Lord accepted their prayers, (saying): I will not suffer to be lost the work of any of you whether male or female. You proceed one from another..." [Noble Quran 3:195]


"Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily to him will We give a new life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to their actions." [Noble Quran 16:97, see also 4:124]


"And among His signs is this: that He created mates for you form yourselves that you may find rest, peace of mind in them, and He ordained between you love and mercy. Lo, herein indeed are signs for people who reflect." [30:21]


Islam acknowledged women's equality with men in a great many respects. There are hundreds of verses and Hadiths regarding the importance of women in Islam. They are given the same status as men but in some cases Women are high and some men but in conclusion both are the same in status.


The beloved Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
"The most perfect in faith amongst believers is he who is best in manners and kindest to his wife." [Abu Dawud].


Muslims believe that Adam and Eve were created from the same soul. Both were equally guilty of their sin and fall from grace, and both were forgiven by Allah. Many women in Islam have had high status; consider the fact that the first person to convert to Islam was Hazrat Khadijah (RA), the wife of Muhammad, whom he both loved and respected. His favorite wife after Khadijah's death, Hazrat Aisha (RA), became renowned as a scholar and one of the greatest sources of Hadith literature. Many of the female Companions accomplished great deeds and achieved fame, and throughout Islamic history there have been famous and influential scholars, jurists and mystics. In Qur’an there is a whole surah with women name- ( surah An Nisa- Women). The first Martyr in Islam was Woman ( Sumya). The first Person who believed in the Prophecy of Prophet Mohammad PUBH was a woman Khadija RA. The last recommendation of Prophet Mohammad PBUH gave to his nation before He died was to treat women well. Women are the half of the society, and Women raise other half, this is how Women status is High your . And because Women are so precious Islam has honored them with Hijab for preserving your chastity and Purity.

With regard to education, both women and men have the same rights and obligations. This is clear in Prophet Muhammad's (PBUH) saying:
"Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every believer." [Ibn Majah]

This implies men and women both. A woman is to be treated as God has endowed her, with rights, such as to be treated as an individual, with the right to own and dispose of her own property and earnings, enter into contracts, even after marriage. She has the right to be educated and to work outside the home if she so chooses. She has the right to inherit from her father, mother, and husband. A very interesting point to note is that in Islam, unlike any other religion, a woman can be an imam, a leader of communal prayer, for a group of women.


From Economic aspect, Islam decreed a right of which woman was deprived both before Islam and after it (even as late as this century), the right of independent ownership. According to Islamic Law, woman's right to her money, real estate, or other properties is fully acknowledged. This right undergoes no change whether she is single or married. She retains her full rights to buy, sell, mortgage or lease any or all her properties. It is nowhere suggested in the Law that a woman is a minor simply because she is a female. It is also noteworthy that such right applies to her properties before marriage as well as to whatever she acquires thereafter.


With regard to the woman's right to seek employment it should be stated first that Islam regards her role in society as a mother and a wife as the most sacred and essential one. Neither maids nor baby-sitters can possibly take the mother's place as the educator of an upright, complex free, and carefully-reared children. Such a noble and vital role, which largely shapes the future of nations, cannot be regarded as "idleness".


In pertinent to Political aspect, Any fair investigation of the teachings of Islam into the history of the Islamic civilization will surely find a clear evidence of woman's equality with man in what we call today "political rights". This includes the right of election as well as the nomination to political offices. It also includes woman's right to participate in public affairs. Both in the Quran and in Islamic history we find examples of women who participated in serious discussions and argued even with the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) himself (see the Noble Quran 58:14 and 60:10-12). During the Caliphate of  Hazrat 'Umar Ibn al-Khattab (RA) a woman argued with him in the mosque, proved her point, and caused him to declare in the presence of people: "A woman is right and 'Umar is wrong."


A Muslim woman also has obligations. All the laws and regulations pertaining to prayer, fasting, charity, pilgrimage, doing good deeds, etc, apply to women, albeit with minor differences having mainly to do with female physiology. Before marriage, a woman has the right to choose her husband. Islamic law is very strict regarding the necessity of having the woman's consent for marriage. A marriage dowry is given by the groom to the bride for her own personal use. She keeps her own family name, rather than taking her husband's. As a wife, a woman has the right to be supported by her husband even if she is already rich. She also has the right to seek divorce and custody of young children. She does not return the dowry, except in a few unusual situations, but very sadly this is not happening in our (Afghan) society. We prefer our cultural values rather Islamic.


Pointing out that Islam is not the problem; the problem is patriarchal and cultural interpretations of Islam and ways of practicing it. It's quite unfortunate that there are many Muslims, both men and women, who think that women's rights are something that came from the west, and they think that to grant women rights is to become westernized, when in fact, their religion granted women those very rights 1400 years before women in the west got them. Not only rights, but the early Muslim women didn't just sit at home making babies, they were very active in the marketplace and were scholars in their own right. Despite the fact that in many places and times Muslim communities have not always adhered to all or even many of the foregoing in practice, the ideal has been there for1, 400 years, while virtually all other major civilizations did not begin to address these issues or change their negative attitudes until the19th and 20th centuries, and there are still many contemporary civilizations which have yet to do so.

The so-called civilized US and western countries under the slogans of “Women Righs” yet failed to ensure and secure the women rights.  Women are completely dealt as sex objects, and are not treated as Human being. For instance one should study the statistics of Women abuse in the west and especially in American who is the Champion of so-called “Women Rights”. According to an online magazine “RAINN”, every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted and there is an average of 207,754 victims (age 12 or older) of sexual assault each year.[iii]

And you can also follow this (http://www.feminist.com/antiviolence/facts.html) link to see more of the astonishing facts about how women are dealt in US, West and around the world.

The western countries the parents are much worried by alike situations, thus the parents don't allow their offspring to hang out with opposite sex or to give ample freedom. They take promises from their daughters to preserve their chastity. In US and west, Purity ball or ring ceremony takes places few times a year. It symbolizes that Daddy would take care of them until they had a husband to do the job. These commitments are only taken from the daughters to in shape of a “promise ring” that they would wait for their husbands to come and love them.[iv]

They criticize our religion and society that we don’t allow our girls to roam free with boys and is considered as the enchainment of personal freedom and at the same token backward. As one of my friend Mr Rushdy Nizar, who is from Sri Lanka always tell me that times evolves, now it’s really true and it is a divine promise as well, that one day Islam will be a dominant religion of  the globe and people will live Islamic lives, and thus westerners are now adapting Islam in indirect ways.

The bigger part of the rest of the world has changed? It's India and China, by the way, not Muslim-majority countries, where the population is skewed due to sex-selective abortions. Thailand, also not Muslim-majority, is famous for sex trafficking of women and little girls (and of course, the biggest customers are western men). Russian men are not unknown to hit their wife/girlfriend/whatever even in public without facing any consequences, and Russia and Eastern Europe are famous for exporting prostitutes. Poor women all over the world, including large numbers in the US A, are victims of domestic violence. Women in the west are abandoned by their children when they grow up (and often enough by their husbands, who leave them for younger women) and have to work into old age to support themselves and live alone and die alone - unheard of in Muslim countries.

In conclusion, The history of Muslims is rich with women of great achievements in all walks of life from as early as the seventh century (A.D.) It is impossible for anyone to justify any mistreatment of woman by any decree of rule embodied in the Islamic Law, nor could anyone dare to cancel, reduce, or distort the clear-cut legal rights of women given in Islamic Law. Throughout history, the reputation, chastity and maternal role of Muslim women were objects of admiration by impartial observers. We all, especially Afghan must realize and know the importance of women. We have to give them their due rights as Islam has already given them 1400 years ago. We only chant the slogans of being pragmatic Muslims but in reality we are the blind followers of Islam, Islam doesn’t imprison women but it’s our boorish culture that has caused women to be considered as nothing.

Aziz Amin Ahmadzai


Regular Writer to different webs, magazines and newspapers

From Afghanistan, student of Politics and International relations, 4th year.

International Islamic University, Islamabad.

Email: Talk4right@gmail.com



End Notes:

[i]WOMEN IN THE ANCIENT WORLD, The status, role and daily life of women in the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Rome, Athens, Israel and Babylonia”, by JamesC. Thompson


[ii] The Holy, Quran: Translation of verses is heavily based on A. Yusuf 'Ali's translation, The Glorious Quran, text translation, and Commentary, The American Trust Publication, Plainfield, IN 46168, 1979.

[iv]  http://www.purityringsonline.com/purity-balls

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